John 11_17-26      Easter's Question

Rev. David Holwick   M                                 Easter

First Baptist Church

Ledgewood, New Jersey

April 4, 2010

John 11:17-26


EASTER'S QUESTION



  I. What happens when we die?

      A. It is a question that everyone asks at some point.

          1) People we love experience death.

          2) As you get older, you wonder about your own death.

          3) Can anyone know what it will be like, before it happens?


      B. Near-death experiences give light to some.

          1) A few years back, U.S. News and World Report magazine had

                an article titled "Life After Death."

             It covered the scientific debate about near-death

                experiences.

             Listen to the first paragraph:


             On the talk-show circuit and the bestseller list, the tales

                are legion.

             After being struck by lightning, a man meets a "Being of

                Light" who grants forgiveness for a lifetime of violence.

             In full cardiac arrest on the operating table, a grade school

                teacher travels down a long tunnel to "a place filled up

                   with love, and a beautiful white light."

                      And Elvis Presley takes her by the hand.[1]


             The article goes on to say that perhaps as many as 15 million

                Americans have had near-death experiences.

             Many of them were changed forever by the things they

                experienced.

             They had touched eternity, or so they believed, and life on

                this earth could never be the same again.


             We all wonder about life after death, don't we?

             It's natural to think about it because sooner or later we're

                going to die.

             That much is certain.

                                                                    #12736


          2) Death is the last enemy.

              a) This is taught in the Bible and is confirmed by our own

                    experience.

              b) We often weep.


                 For 20 years, Dan Gelatt served with as pastor of the

                    First Baptist Church of Elkhart, Indiana.

                 He is a good man and a very gifted speaker.

                    1997 was the most difficult in his life.

                 His aged father died, then his daughter-in-law died

                    of cancer.

                 Then his wife of 44 years died of a brain tumor after

                    suffering for two years.


                 Dan was in attendance as Rev. Ray Pritchard gave a

                    sermon on the providence of God.

                 God's providence deals with how God can intervene in

                    our lives, protecting us and giving us good things.

                 He doesn't think he had gotten three minutes into the

                    message before he saw Dan put his head down and

                       start to weep.


                 Afterwards Dan gripped Ray's shoulder and said, "I

                    believe all that, but it's so hard."

                 Dan said that at the end, his wife didn't even

                    recognize him.

                 A hundred times a day she would say, "Who are you?"

                 Ray says he had not seen a man weep like that in years.

                                                                   #12634


              c) Jesus wept too.


                 When he stood before the tomb of Lazarus he wept openly.

                 People have wondered why he wept since he knew he was

                    going to raise Lazarus from the dead.

                 I think he wept because he loved Lazarus and because

                    he felt the pain of death.

                 He saw the grief of Mary and Martha and wept for all

                    the suffering that death causes in the world.


                 Death is the last enemy, and until it is destroyed, we,

                    like Jesus, will weep too.


      C. Easter offers hope.

          1) It dramatically portrays the ultimate victory over death.

          2) Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we can live forever.

              a) Not just a continuation of this life, but a better one.

              b) A life that is supernatural and exciting and perfect.


II. Easter raises lots of questions.

      A. Is it even plausible?

          1) Newsweek article by Lisa Miller.


             Easter has marshmallow rabbits and colored eggs, but the

                reality is much darker and fantastic.

             Christians are claiming a dead body came back to life.


             Liberal Christians try to reduce resurrection to metaphor.

                It doesn't really happen, but it's a nice thought.


             Resurrection - the physical reality, not the metaphorical

                interpretation - puts everything we imagine about heaven

                   to the test.

             Eighty percent of Americans believe in heaven, but most

                don't have a clue as to what they mean.

             Most people think of heaven as a good place with reunions

                and beauty and material abundance.

             Billy Graham once said that he dreamed of driving a yellow

                Cadillac in heaven.


             In all of our images of heaven, having a body is key.

                With a body, you can do stuff, you can be someone.

                                                                    #36194

          2) Easter has its difficulties.


             Bodies in heaven present some logical issues.

                How can a body exist "up there somewhere"?


             It is an ancient argument.

             Jesus himself faced opponents who came up with a hypothetical

                dilemma.

             What if a woman's husband died, and she had to marry his

                brother?

             And then he dies, and she repeats the process for a total

                of seven men.

             If there is a resurrection, who does she end up married to?

                All seven?                                  Mark 12:18-23


             The opponents were arguing that if heaven is in any sense

                physical, then in heaven you must have your wife and all

                   the things that go along with wives - sex, arguments,

                      dinner.

             Jesus blew them off, saying they just didn't get it.

                He says marriage doesn't continue in heaven.

             But he doesn't say anything about the other problems that

                a physical eternity seems to entail.

                                                                    #36194

      B. Americans are solving the dilemma on their own.

          1) They are moving away from Easter.


             In the last seven years, the number of Americans who say

                they believe in the resurrection of Jesus has dropped

                   10 percentage points.

             It now stands at 70%.

             Only 26% of Americans think they will have a body in heaven.

                                                                   #36194

          2) Reincarnation is taking over.

              a) Reincarnation says you die, then come back on this earth

                    again, but in a different form.

                  1> You may be another person.

                  2> Or you might be a cockroach.

                  3> It all depends on how nice you were to your mother.

              b) Reincarnation derives from Eastern religions like Hinduism.

                  1> It clearly goes against what the Bible teaches.

                  2> But one-third of Americans now believe in it.

                      A> Even among Christians, it is now 26%.


      C. Or you can dispense with the physical altogether.

          1) Even in ancient times, opponents of resurrection could

                accept that a soul could live forever.

          2) Modern liberal Christians like this approach too.

          3) But a body-less soul can't do the things we want to do for

                eternity, things like eating and hearing and touching.

              a) Things the Bible says Jesus could do after his

                    resurrection.

              b) Things the Bible says WE can do after he resurrects us.


III. Long before Easter, Jesus confronted death.

      A. Jesus delayed coming to Lazarus.                       John 11:6

          1) He had the opportunity to come while he was still sick.

          2) He waited, not only until he was dead, but until he was

                REALLY dead.  Stinky dead, even.


      B. "If you had been here..."                                  11:21

          1) Martha didn't have a question, but a statement.

              a) She shows great faith in Jesus when she says this.

              b) She believes Jesus could have healed him.

              c) But she doesn't have enough faith to think he could

                    raise him from the dead here and now.

              d) Her faith in resurrection was traditional - it will

                    happen some day, by God's power.  But not now.

          2) We all think from time to time that Jesus' presence would

                make a difference.

              a) If he had been here, my marriage would not have failed.

              b) If he had been here, I would not have had to declare

                    bankruptcy.

              c) If he had been here, my teenager would not have turned

                    to drugs.


      C. Jesus' dramatic statement.

          1) "I am the resurrection and the life."                  11:25

              a) These words have given hope for 2,000 years.

              b) They are paradoxical - we can live even if we die, and

                    we will never die.

                  1> Well, do we die, or not?

                  2> He seems to be saying that there is death that is

                        not really death.

          2) He is the resurrection.

              a) Jesus doesn't say he produces resurrection or is in

                    charge of it.

              b) He IS it.

                  1> Jesus has transformed death.

                  2> The answer to death is not resurrection, but Jesus

                        himself.

              c) That's why this article in U.S. News and World Report

                    speaks to our hearts.


                 Men and women desperately want to peer beyond the veil.

                 They want to know what lies on the other side of death.

                    The answer is quite simple.

                 If you know Jesus, what lies on the other side is

                    resurrection and life.

                 If you don't know him, you have no hope at all.


                 You might as well call the Psychic Hotline or talk to

                    the woman who thinks she met Elvis.

                 When the time of death comes, you'd better know Jesus

                    or you're going to be all alone.

                                                                 #12736


IV. The ultimate question of Easter.

      A. A Baptist's questions.


         Bill Fay is a Southern Baptist who loves to ask people

            questions.

         Be begins by asking them, "Do you have any kind of spiritual

            belief?"

         He doesn't ask them if they believe in God.

         But by asking an open-ended question, the person may go on for

            ten seconds or two minutes.

         He lets them talk without any comment from himself.


         The second question he likes to ask is, "To you, who is Jesus?"

            Once again, he lets them do all the talking.


         The next question he asks is, "Do you think there's heaven or

            hell?"

         They will oftentimes say "yes" or "no."

         It doesn't really matter what they say, because he's not going

            to respond.


         The next question he asks them is, "If you died right now,

            where are you going?"

         No matter what they say, Bill don't respond.


         Then he asks the key question.

         "If what you believe is not true, would you want to know?"

            There are only two possible answers -- "yes" or "no."

         In the thousands of times he's asked these questions, not once,

            not ever, never, has he had a "no" that stuck.


         Here is how it usually goes.

         He has asked, "If what you believe isn't true, do you want to

            know?"

         And they go, "no."

            You know what he does next?  Nothing.


         Before long they'll ask, "Aren't you going to tell me?"

            Bill will say, "You didn't want to know."

         They'll say, "Yes I do," and off he goes.


         Bill Fay knows that he can't force people into hearing about

            his faith.

         Their defense will always be stronger than his ability to force

            them to hear.

         But by asking the right questions, he'll get them to seek the

            Bible's answers.                                       #36186


      B. Jesus has a question for us as well.

          1) He asks Martha - and us - "Do you believe this?"

          2) Do you?

              a) You don't have to understand everything about Easter or

                    resurrection or heaven.

              b) (And by the way, heaven is not physical like Lisa Miller

                    seems to think.

                 Heaven only becomes physical when God's kingdom comes

                    to earth, as we ask in the Lord's Prayer each week.)

              c) What you must believe is that Jesus holds your

                    resurrection.

                  1> He can save you.

                  2> He can save you for a better life now, and for a

                        perfect eternity.

                  3> By saying you believe, you are saying you accept

                        what he teaches and will try to live it.


      C. Your answer matters.

          1) Resurrection is not just for the distant future.

          2) It is for right now, in the life you are living.

          3) What is your answer to him?



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SOURCES FOR ILLUSTRATIONS USED IN THIS SERMON:


I found Dr. Ray Pritchard's sermon especially helpful for this message.


#12634  "I Believe All That, But It's So Hard," by Dr. Ray Pritchard;

           Calvary Memorial Church; Oak Park, Illinois; Kerux Sermon #23877,

           March 23, 1997.  Edited by David Holwick.


#12736  "She Got To Hold Elvis' Hand," by Dr. Ray Pritchard; Calvary

           Memorial Church; Oak Park, Illinois; Kerux Sermon #23877,

           March 23, 1997.  Edited by David Holwick.


#36186  "Getting Rid Of The Fear Of Witnessing," by Bill Fay, Baptist Press,

           March 2, 2010.  <http://www.baptistpress.org>


#36194  "Far From Heaven," by Lisa Miller, Newsweek, April 5, 2010.


These and 35,000 others are part of the Kerux database that can be

downloaded, absolutely free, at http://www.holwick.com/database.html

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Copyright 2014 by Rev. David Holwick

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